#60: Expropriation commission, Ukraine volunteers, no more masks, Tesla (again)
Also: German-Russian theatre in Berlin
Dear 20 Percenters,
From this Friday — not an April Fool’s joke — Berliners will be able to shop, enter a cinema, theatre, museum, restaurant or club without a mask, without proof of vaccination or anything else. 2G, 3G, 3G+ will all be history — though masks will remain in place on public transport.
I think it’s the right time. Vaccinations are available to all. The health system is by-and-large coping with the Covid case load. FFP2 masks are proven to offer excellent protection against infection — vulnerable people can continue to wear them. For the broad mass of vaccinated people, the risk of becoming seriously sick from an infection is very low. Two years of closures, quarantines, masks and testing have taken their psychological toll. The vast majority of Berliners followed the confusing, ever-changing government rules and recommendations to the letter throughout the pandemic — they deserve a break.
Another variant might crash into our lives. Who knows what’s coming? For now, let’s savour spring.
More news below!
The Berlin corona stats for Tuesday, March 29
Received booster: 59.4% (59.2% Friday)
New cases in one day: 7,329 (8,106 Friday)
Total deaths: 4,363 (+17 over Friday)
🔴 7-day Covid-19 incidence (cases per 100,000): 1076.5 (1,087.4 Friday)
🔴 7-day hospitalisation incidence (also per 100,000): 19.0 (19.2 Friday)
🟡 Covid-19 ICU patient occupancy: 9.9% (8.8% Friday)
Source: Berlin’s corona page
No more volunteers, please
The Berlin Senat says most volunteers are no longer needed to support refugees from Ukraine. It says it has largely set up its own systems to cope with the influx of people. During the first two-to-three weeks of the war in Ukraine, regular Berliners were bearing the brunt of the work of helping the thousands of people arriving at the Hauptbahnhof and ZOB bus station. The private arrangement of accommodation and help with driving is no longer required, said Stefan Strauß, spokesman for the social welfare department. He cited concerns about “data protection” (in the case of private accommodation offers) and the dangers of volunteer drivers working long hours as reasons for the decision. Meanwhile, the Senat has set up a webpage with comprehensive information for refugees in Ukrainian, Russian, English and German.
It’s illegal to publicly display a large Z on your car in Berlin, the city-state’s interior minister Iris Spranger (SPD) told Der Tagesspiegel on Monday. Displaying symbols that express support for Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine is punishable by a fine or up to three years behind bars, she said. Cars bearing the symbol have been spotted across Germany.
Cars are bad, mmkay?
Turns out, pedestrians like car-free zones. A trial on Friedrichstraße has led to 69 percent more pedestrians on the dull stretch of road in Mitte south of Unter den Linden in March than when it began in August 2020, according to Berliner Zeitung. “People are also actually staying longer in the area,” Henning Richard Haltinner told the paper - Haltinner is CEO of What a Location, which evaluated anonymous cellphone info for the article. The trial was supposed to end in October but the project’s success led politicians to extend the car-free zone, possibly forever. Politicians are already discussing closing Unter den Linden to cars in the near future as well and the Die Mitte association reportedly wants an international competition to redesign the area without four-wheelers.
Protest again Russian coal
Environmentalists and peace activists blocked the gates of Berlin’s largest cogeneration plant (which supplies power and heat) in Spandau on Sunday. The plant is fuelled entirely by coal from Russia. As part of a nationwide action, the 100 protesters demanded an immediate halt to Russian fossil fuel imports. They also said Germany should invest in climate-friendly measures rather than boosting military spending, as Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) announced in parliament shortly after the war began.
Expropriation commission gets to work
A 13-person commission of legal and property experts Tuesday will begin considering how best to implement a September referendum that would limit corporate landlords to 3,000 apartments and force them to sell any surplus to the government (Deutsche Wohnen & Co. Enteignen), according to RBB24. The commission is reportedly led by former federal justice minister Herta Däubler-Gmelin (SPD) with other various agencies nominating members. The referendum’s founders have also nominated three members but have complained that the city has only appointed opponents of the referendum — Mayor Franziska Giffey (SPD) has opposed the referendum, saying she prefers the construction of new apartments with the help of private developers to lower rents. The commission now has a year to make a proposal that could withstand legal scrutiny.
Tesla opponents push on
Environmentalist NGOs Grüne Liga and Nabu have filed an objection to the issuance of an emissions control permit for the new Tesla factory by the Brandenburg State Environment Agency. They’re asking to have full access to all documents pertaining to the approval process. They claimed authorities had “delayed and/or refused” to release both Tesla’s full application documentation and the agency’s grounds for the approval. “We want to understand on what basis the approval notice for the plant was issued,” said Michael Ganschow of Grüne Liga Brandenburg. The electric car factory began production earlier this month and Elon Musk handed over the first cars made there to customers last Tuesday. Critics say the plant will use too much of the region’s groundwater.
Some Russian-German theatre…
A bold move by one of Berlin’s most prestiguous theatres, and a unique chance for English speakers to see something out of the ordinary: renowned Moscow director Kirill Serebrennikov’s (who’s suffered his fair share of harassment by the Putin regime) modern-day stage version of Giovanni Boccaccio’s witty 14th century tale of love and death during the Plague,The Decameron. The piece will be performed at Deutsches Theater tonight and tomorrow night in German with English surtitles. Tickets still available. The info.
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Berlin is home to 33 state Europaschulen, each offering free bilingual education in German plus one of 9 languages: English, French, Greek, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Turkish. Around 6,000 pupils attend 18 primary and 15 secondary schools that operate according to the model.